Recently I got this crazy idea. I wanted to make a sneaker planter. That’s right, I wanted to make a replica of a shoe to use as a planter. I thought it would be fun for the kids in my classes to be able to design, customize and paint a shoe. Shoe designing is creative and I knew the teens in my class would be all over it! Here in the United States, people LOVE their sneakers!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as straight forward as I had originally anticipated. I scoured the internet looking for instructions on how to make a cement planter using a classic pair of sneakers and I couldn’t find anything! The only thing I found was a person in England who sells the molds (see below for more on that).
In addition to being creative for the kids in my classes, I also pictured the shoes in a perfect growing spot alongside my outdoor lounge furniture.
What materials are needed to make a DIY sneaker planter?
- Sneaker mold (if you do not want to make your own – you can purchase them here)
- Silicone rubber (if you choose to make your own)
- Popsicle sticks or paint stirring sticks (I love the jumbo popsicle sticks)
- Plaster, concrete or resin
- Old sneakers or shoes
- Hot glue gun and sticks
This project can get messy. Click here for the scoop on my must-have cleaner for artists and crafters. (It seriously works miracles!)
Remember those pottery painting classes you used to take? The plaster sneaker planter is just like that. Make your own unique planter using your favorite flowers or simply paint them and perhaps enjoy some yellow sneaker planters in your garden for a little whimsical fun. Whichever route you take, get creative and have some fun! You even decoupage them and make a mixed media plaster sneaker.
How to make a sneaker mold
Ok, I’ll admit it. This wasn’t easy. I failed. A lot. I posted on my local facebook group that I was looking for an old pair of shoes in any size or condition. One mother offered me her son’s old kicks and I got to work researching. I’ve been making molds now for almost a year and I thought I was ready for this challenge. Five fails later and I finally figured it out. Finally!
After making my first mold of the shoe and totally wasting hundreds of dollars in materials, I knew I had to take my time. The first thing I did was glue down any loose parts like the shoe laces and I used hot glue to seal up every hole from the inside. Next, I stuffed the shoes with plastic bags to both strengthen them and to give them some structure.
I hot glued a cup inside the shoe so that the shoe would double as a planter. It looked bumpy but I knew that if my first casting was in plaster, I could address it later on. Once everything was sealed, I knew I had to seal the shoes because of my previous failure with the silicone sticking to all of the fabric parts of the shoes.
I had an idea. I googled to see how those old bronze baby shoes were made. In the video I found, the artist said that one of the first steps is hardening the shoe. Since my challenge was that the silicone rubber kept sticking to the shoe laces, I knew I needed to seal them and harden them. Shellac did the trick. I did two full coats over the course of two days. Also, make sure those shoe laces are glued down completely! Any air gaps will cause major issues.
Next, I built a mold box for my shoe. This took several attempts because I wanted to build it to minimize wasting too much silicone. However, a simple shoe box would have worked. I placed the shoe into the mold box and glued down the bottom. I mixed up my silicone rubber and poured it over the shoe until the entire shoe was covered. I let it sit for 24 hours.
I took the shoe from the mold and placed it onto the table. Next, I mixed up some plaster (but you could totally do resin or concrete). I poured the plaster into the shoe mold and let that sit for 24 hours. Like I said, this process takes major patience!
24 hours later I had a beautiful plaster mold of my shoe. With this shoe, you could totally make another mold from it and then make many castings. I used shellac to seal the plaster. For more strategies on painting/sealing plaster, check out this post to help!
Here’s the thing…I also bought a mold on Etsy. I was curious to see how other people made the molds and wanted to see if the castings turned out the same way. The purchased mold on Etsy yielded great results. However, the mold was pretty expensive. But then again…creating my mold was also expensive (silicone rubber is very pricey) and very time consuming. Here are pictures of the shoe that I casted vs the one I purchased:
The purchased one was slightly better. So…if you’re using the mold for something needing great detail (wax, chocolate, etc), perhaps just buy one. If you’re wanting cement shoes for your garden, handmade is totally sufficient.
Next, I brought the shoes to my classes and the kids went nuts! I had them design a shoe on paper first and then paint it onto the shoes. HUGE hit! The kids loved the project. Next week, we will add some plants to make these into sneaker planters!
This summer I plan to make a bunch more shoes for my yard using cement. I can’t wait to use them in the garden, on the outdoor bar furniture, to hold down the tablecloth on my outdoor dining furniture and I will absolutely illuminate them with some outdoor lighting. I will be sure to post some pictures when it is complete!
Love pop art tutorials? Check out this one to make a fake donut!
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